SEC Braces For Big Weekend

FAYETTEVILLE — The Southeastern Conference race, as well as the national championship picture, should look a bit clearer by the time everything settles late Saturday night.

That's because there might not be a bigger weekend in the SEC this season than the one that's only a few days away. And it has nothing to do with South Carolina's game with Wofford.

No. 3 Auburn (2-0) plays host to No. 6 LSU (2-0) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in a game that could decide the SEC West. The winner also keeps its national championship hope alive.

Meanwhile, No. 7 Florida (2-0) plays at No. 13 Tennessee (2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday in a nationally televised game that could shake up the SEC East, as well as the Associated Press' top 25 poll.

Talk about a big weekend.

"Usually, you don't have this many top 10 caliber teams playing each other this early in the season," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Wednesday. "I think there are some good matchups. Obviously, there will be some shuffling around after this week.

"I think we'll all have a better idea of our football teams, us included. You play a couple of games, you think you know where you're at, but you really don't know until you play somebody that is pretty much ranked close to you or has the same type of athletes."

Passing The Ball Around

Like everyone else, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer expects Saturday's game against Florida to be a showdown between the SEC's top two quarterbacks — Erik Ainge and Chris Leak.

"Obviously in games like this, the quarterbacks are always huge in it," Fulmer said. "The one that makes the fewest mistakes will give their team the best chance to win."

Florida leads the SEC in passing offense with 681 yards over the first two games, good enough for fourth best in the nation. But surprisingly, the Gators don't have the SEC's leading passer.

Tennessee does.

Ainge has averaged 312.0 yards while leading the Volunteers to wins over California and Air Force. His 624 yards is 24 more than Leak and 164 more than the SEC's third-leading passer, Alabama's John Parker Wilson.

Ainge's development has come in large part because of the return of David Cutcliffe, who was brought back to Tennessee to again serve as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

"Erik has made progress. David has done an excellent job with him, and (Ainge's) been very responsive to that. The people around him have also done a very good job," Fulmer said.

"If we can maintain some balance in our offense (and) not ask him to do too much and do everything, then I think he will continue to have a chance to have success."

Kickers Needed

A number of Division I-A schools are reluctant to give scholarships to kickers. They rely instead on walk-ons, and sometimes the results show.

Arkansas, for instance, has had difficulty finding an accurate kicker through the first two games.

But Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said he has no choice but to give scholarships to his kickers – especially if he wants an accurate one.

"A lot of (Division) I-A schools, especially state schools, have the luxury of getting a lot of walk-ons because it doesn't cost you a whole lot of money," Johnson said. "If a walk-on comes here, it's going to cost him over $40,000 to go to school, so we just can't say, ‘We're going to get five walk-on kickers to come out and we'll pick the best one and put him on scholarship. It's not going to work that way.

"... We have to be extremely careful and go out and recruit that position just like we do any other."

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